Wish Upon A Dish: April 2011

April 29, 2011

Diabetic's Dream Lasagna

I am dangerous in a farmer's market. I tend to buy more vegetables then I can eat in 1 week. I did it again today only this time I brought a list.

I have had a hankering for lasagna lately and I wanted to make a non-traditional one using goat cheese, mushrooms and spinach with homemade whole wheat pasta.

I never made whole wheat pasta before because I am not a fan of the dried variety. I just don't like the way it tastes with tomatoes but I think wild mushrooms and spinach along with the tangy goat cheese will actually go well with the whole wheat pasta.

Making it fresh will allow me to bake it uncooked and we all know that as a diabetic, we should eat fresh pasta over dried anytime we can. I bought a bag of King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour. It is a softer, whiter wheat flour that still has all the nutrients and fiber that is in regular whole wheat.

You do not have to make your own pasta to make this lasagna. Any no-cook or regular lasagna noodles will work just fine. Read the directions on the recommended cooking time but always remember, al dente means 'with a bite', so chewy is good, mushy is not.

The use of goat's cheese instead of mozzarella will make it ooey gooey good (and a little goes a long way) but tasty and the addition of pureed low-fat ricotta instead of cream in the bechamel will make this dish, not only decadent, but low cal, low-fat and healthy. Goat's cheese is so much better for your digestion and full of vitamins. Much better then cow's milk cheeses.
Imagine that!!! Yay for us.

This time of year screams mushrooms in any shape or form. What could be better than sauteing them until they caramelize and then baking them in a lasagna??

Nothing. I am even adding a few tablespoons of wild mushroom powder. If you don't have any or have any time to order it online, you can take dried porcini's and grind them in your spice grinder until it is a fine powder. If there are hard bits that refuse to cooperate just use a small strainer and sift them out.

Fresh Mushroom Whole Wheat Pasta Dough
* 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
* 2 tablespoons mushroom powder
* 1 egg, beaten with s sprinkle of EVOO
* a small cup of water

Place the flour and mushroom powder in the bowl of a processor. Pulse to mix.

Beat the egg with EVOO and about 1 tablespoon of water. With the machine running, slowly pour in the liquid until the mixture starts to spin around the bowl in one cohesive ball. Remove to a piece of plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes.

Using a roller attachment or pasta machine, roll out the dough to the thickness you would like. Remember it will expand as it soaks up the liquids in the sauces. I like the #5 thickness setting.

Once rolled, lay out on a flour kitchen towel on a sheet pan. Let it rest until you are ready to assemble your lasagna.

If you do not have the equipment to make your own pasta, then use the Barilla No Cook Lasagna Noodles or any lasagna noodles you prefer. I imagine Dreamfields will be a good choice also.

Roasted Garlic Bechamel
* 2 cups milk
* 1 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese grated, divided
* 1 head garlic, top sliced off
* 1 tsp EVOO
* 1 small container fat-free ricotta, pureed
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* 1 tablespoon flour
* 4oz. package goat cheese
* Pinch of nutmeg
* salt to taste

In saucepan melt butter and saute flour in it until no lumps. Add milk and whisk constantly until it comes to a boil. Add garlic, goat cheese and nutmeg. Stir until cheese is melted. Blend in 1/2 cup Parma cheese and ricotta. Stir and set aside to cool.

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna
* 1 batch lasagna noodles
* 1 package each of different mushrooms...cremini, oyster, shiitake and dried porcini (soaked in hot water for 15 minutes) or whatever you can find.
* 1/2 cup cooked fresh spinach or frozen that is squeezed dry

Spray a 9x13 Pyrex or lasagna pan with PAM.

Saute spinach in a non-stick pan using only the water clinging to the leaves.
Saute the mushrooms in a small amount of EVOO until the edges are browned and caramelized.
Season mushrooms and spinach with salt & pepper but keep them separate.

Spread a layer of bechamel to cover bottom of baking pan.

Lay pasta sheets to cover and spread the mushroom mixture on that.

Spoon some bechamel over the mushrooms.

Another layer of pasta, then spinach and bechamel, more pasta, then mushromms and bechamel and the last layer of pasta and mushrooms, bechamel and then the last layer of pasta. You should have 4 filled layers.

Finish with the bechamel sauce.
Sprinkle a good amount of parmagiano cheese so the top will get crusty and brown beautifully.

Bake, covered with foil at 375F for 55 minutes on a sheet pan. Remove foil and sprinkle more cheese on top and return to the oven to brown the top, about another 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle some chopped parsley for color before serving.

You MUST let it rest for at least 25 minutes if not overnight. Lasagna is notorious for being way better the next day.

April 27, 2011

Deviled Ham Salad Remembered

Another overnight trip down South Jersey means I have to leave something in the fridge for The Nudge to eat for dinner.

Something easy for me to make usually means something on bread. Last week he made a hotdog and egg salad on the last 3 hot dog rolls.

This week, because I have a nice thick slice of Tavern Ham, he will get a ham salad on a pocketless pita. I don't remember ever making a ham salad in my life. I do remember long time ago, seeing a recipe using that canned Devil Ham. Maybe I can find a recipe for that and adapt it. Nowadays you can find anything on the web, especially after most people will be making huge baked hams for Easter and have plenty of leftovers.

Did not take me long. I found a blog who talked about that canned Underwood Deviled Ham last year, just as I have done here.

I think I will add some minced swiss cheese after I process it, just to give it a little more texture.

Deviled Ham Salad
adapted from Homesick Texan
* 2 cups ham, chopped
* 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (about 1/4 of a pepper)
* 1/4 cup onion, finely diced
* 1 large dill pickle, diced
* 1 jalapeƱo, diced
* 3 tablespoons mayo
* 3 tablespoons mustard
* Salt and black pepper to taste

In a food processor, mix all the ingredients together until blended but not too smooth as you want a bit of texture. Taste and adjust any seasoning or add more mayonnaise and mustard if you like. A little drizzle of pickle juice is excellent as well.

Yield: About 2 cups. Keeps in the refrigerator for a few days.

April 26, 2011

THE BEST THING I EVER ATE.....the Calzone Edition

30 years ago, in a small NJ town, there was a small pizza parlor that made THE BEST calzones.

Like most memories of meals, I am sure that if I was to go back to that place today and order the same calzone it would not be as good.

Isn't that the way it is about most meals?
I am going to try and make a calzone that will be memorable.

Salami-Mozzarella and Sliced Provolone, no ricotta. It will probably end up more like a Stromboli than a calzone but either way it should be good.

Anything made with bread, meat and cheese can not EVER be bad.

While this recipe calls for canned pizza dough, I will be making my own. You should buy a ready made non-canned pizza dough if you have no time to make your own. Those canned doughs although convenient, are loaded with sodium and calories, which we all do not need. Most markets sell them in bags where the cheeses are for under $2.00.

I wanted to make individual ones but The Nudge said to make one BIG BAD BOY.

As I was reading the recipe I read the reviews also. Most of the ones that were writen did not like the addition of the giardiniera. I think it called for way too much. I think they were going for a muffulletta-type sandwich which as we know has the chopped olives spread topping a ton of cold cuts. The problem with adding what is traditionally a crunchy and cold topping is it just doesn't work in a baked, cheesy sandwich. I think I will puree some of it and use it as a light spread not as one of the showcased ingredients.

Sauteeing the salami gets rid of so much fat. Do NOT skip this step. I spread the mixtures lengthwise on the dough.

Fold over the dough, crimp the edges and brush with the egg wash. Let it sit while you heat the oven.

Right before sliding it into the oven crack some fresh ground pepper and sea salt on top.

This is perfect. The best pizza baked dough recipe yet, and I have made a few. I can't wait to cut it open.....

Salami-Mozzarella Calzone
adapted from Food Network Magazine
4 servings

* 1 large egg, beaten
* 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
* 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
* 1/4 pound shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
* Extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
* 1 13.8-ounce tube refrigerated pizza dough or one batch homemade
* 1/4 pound deli-sliced salami or pepperoni, cut into thin strips
* 1/4 small onion, sliced
* 1/2 cup giardiniera (pickled mixed vegetables), drained and pureed
* 6 fresh basil leaves
* 2 tsp Agave Nectar or honey
* 4-5 small bread & butter pickles or cornichons
* 1 tablespoon EVOO
* 1/4 pound sliced provolone cheese or 1/2 cup fontina cheese

Place a baking sheet upside down in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Add the parsley and lemon zest to the grated cheeses in a small bowl. Reserve the egg for brushing on the crust.

Make a paste by pureeing the giardiniera, basil, honey, EVOO and pickles. Set aside.

Slice salami into 1/2" slices and saute until all the oil is rendered (I ended up with 1/4 cup for 1/2 pound of salami, which if wasn't rendered would end up in your calzone....no thank you, ma'am). Drain on a paper towel lined bowl. Saute onion with 1 tsp of butter until translucent.

Brush a piece of parchment paper with olive oil. Unroll the dough on the parchment paper and pat into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread the pureed giardiniera and then the mozzarella mixture over one half of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border along the edge. Top with the salami and fontina or provolone. Fold the other half of the dough over to cover the filling. Crimp and roll the edges to seal, then pierce the top of the dough in a few places with a knife. Flip the calzone over when transporting it onto the pre-heated baking sheet so that the cheese is on the top.

Slide the calzone with the parchment paper onto the hot baking sheet; bake 15 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes while you turn the oven down to 350F. Continue to bake until the crust is golden, 5 to 10 more minutes. Let rest 5 minutes, then cut into wedges.

This was absolutely THE best calzone I ever had....period.

Can serve some spaghetti sauce on the side for dipping.

Per serving: Calories 660; Fat 36 g (Saturated 14 g); Cholesterol 171 mg; Sodium 1,683 mg; Carbohydrate 52 g; Fiber 3 g; Protein 34 g

April 25, 2011

Asian Chicken Salad

I have exactly 15 weekdays till vacation. I have started "The List".

You know....that list of things that you need to buy for vacation and then there's "The Other List".

The list of things that have to be done before you go on vacation.

Tonight the boiler repair person is giving our well used heater a tune-up. It made some God-awful sound the other day when it kicked on after being off for a day or two when the weather got warmer. Scared the hell out of the 2 of us.....enough so, that we both looked at each other at the same time with that look in our eyes of...

Oh, crap. What the HELL was that????

That was.....time for an overhaul boom-boom. I mean a poof of smoke actually came out of the heater along with the oil smell that follows a poof.

I am afraid we might get one more year out of it before we have to replace it.

Next on the list is to create a list of animal sitters that reside near us.

Luckily I planned an easy salad using leftover chicken I cooked last week.
Salads are slice 'n dice meals.

Asian Chicken Salad
makes 4 servings
* 1/3 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons honey mustard
* 1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 3 tablespoons sesame oil
* 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs
* 1 small head napa cabbage (about 1 pound), cut into bite-size pieces
* 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
* 4 scallions, thinly sliced
* 1/4 pound snow peas, cut crosswise into thirds
* Kosher salt
* 1/2 cup chow mein noodles

Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Make the dressing: Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, honey mustard and ginger in a medium bowl, then add the vegetable and sesame oils in a slow stream, whisking until combined.

Toss the chicken with 1/4 cup of the dressing in another bowl; let marinate 10 minutes at room temperature. Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and grill until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a cutting board; let rest 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss the cabbage, carrot, scallions and snow peas with the remaining dressing in a large bowl. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces and toss with the salad. Season with salt. Top with the chow mein noodles.

Per serving: Calories 489; Fat 35 g (Saturated 5 g); Cholesterol 94 mg; Sodium 492 mg; Carbohydrate 16 g; Fiber 5 g; Protein 30 g

Easter Pictures

I hope everyone who celebrated Easter or just celebrated Sunday had a nice day yesterday. It was also our niece's 25th birthday. I always think that the 25th is more important that the 21st.
Twenty-five is a quarter century and usually by then, what you are doing with your life will be what you are destined to do for the next three.

Turned out to be a great day to sit outside on my SIL's new screened in porch. She lost her husband a year ago and it was bittersweet that he never got to use it, being his idea to build it. I wish our front deck was screened in. Too many mosquito's chase us in during the summer when it would be nice to stay out longer, especially on the weekends.
The Nudge and I got there a few hours before his brother & family did, so we had time to get caught up in family gossip.

This was how I served the Hearts of Gold. I would make these again and again. It really wasn't all that hard to cut up the artichokes to expose the heart. You pull off all the outer hard leaves, cut down half of them and peel the stem and base with a regular vegetable peeler.
Then you cut them in half lengthwise and cut out the choke, exposing the heart and the tenderest leaves that surround it. Soak in acidulated water while you do the rest. Then boil them for no more than 15 minutes, remove and cool.
Once cool, standard breading applies. Egg & Panko/dry bread crumbs. I deep fried mine because I had it set up for the fritters but you could shallow fry them like you would chicken breasts.

These are the three sauces I prepared. The cumin creme fraiche went well with the grilled lamb chops and I loved the grapefruit sabayon spooned over the hearts. The lemon aioli was good for the fritters so all the sauces got eaten. YAY for me.

I am seriously thinking of making these again next weekend. I am sure artichokes will still be in season.

I think if I do I will make a light Hollandaise sauce and serve a nice grilled fillet. Sounds like a plan.

My Easter pie was a hit. We also had an ice cream cake. I forgot how much I like those cakes from Carvel.

Here's a picture of my niece after she blew out the candles. She's such a pretty girl and has blossomed as she has matured.

She has become a foodie which surprised the hell out of me and just knocks me over. I think she is the first on The Nudge's side of the family to be overly interested in foods and cultures.

Just proves you can never be too old to enjoy an ice cream cake.
I admit I splurged on the dessert and had a small piece of both, the ricotta and ice cream pie's.
They says it's bad luck to not have a piece of birthday cake and I am sticking to that excuse......

April 24, 2011

Sneak Peek at my Artichoke Recipes for Easter

I am making artichokes for my contribution to our Easter Table this year.

Two totally different styles, but both crunchy and fried with dipping sauces.
People love to dip anything.

Hearts of Gold & Fritters. The sealer is the grapefruit sabayon as one of the dipping sauces. The other will be a creme fraiche & cumin sauce along with a homemade lemon-garlic aioli. Both recipes can be used with all 3 sauces, have fun mixing 'n matching.

Artichoke Fritters
adapted from food52.com
makes about 40 small fritters

* 2 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed well
* 1/2 medium sized onion, skin removed and trimmed
* 3 garlic cloves, peeled
* 1 1/3 cup garbanzo/fava flour
* 1 large egg
* kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil (optional)
* 3 teaspoons salted capers, rinsed and minced
* vegetable oil for frying

1. Add all the ingredients, except the capers, to a food processor and puree until you have a smooth paste. It should still be loose not stiff. Stir in the minced capers. Ask a question about this step.
2. I like to use a wok to fry them but a deep pot would work well here too. Put enough oil into the pot so the fritters will float without touching the bottom of the pan. Just make sure the pot is no more than 1/3 full of oil. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Ask a question about this step.
3. Heat the oil to 350 degree or if you do not have a fry thermometer drop a little dough in and if it pops right back up and bubbles furiously you are good to go. Ask a question about this step.
4. Using a #60 scoop or a tablespoon slip the batter gently into the oil. Do not over crowd and do not let them brown to quickly. Reduce the heat if necessary. Ask a question about this step.
5. When they have finished cooking remove them to a paper towel lined plate or oven proof dish to drain. Slide them into the oven to keep warm while finishing. Repeat the above step until all the batter is gone. Serve immediately.

Lemon-Garlic Mayonnaise
* 1 egg yolk
* 1/2 lemon, juiced
* salt & pepper
* 2 garlic cloves
* 1 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1/2 cup vegetable oil

In a food processor, place first 5 ingredients and process until smooth. With machine running slowly drip the oil into the processor until thick and creamy.
Taste for seasonings.

Savory Grapefruit Sabayon
* 1/4 cup chicken stock
* 1 1/2 tablespoon grapefruit flavored vodka (or vermouth)
* 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
* 2 teaspoons grapefruit zest
* 1 teaspoon honey
* 2 egg yolks
* 1/4 teaspoon salt

1. In a small saucepan, simmer the stock and vodka until reduced by half. Let cool. Ask a question about this step.
2. Combine grapefruit juice, zest and honey in a small bowl. Add to cooled stock mixture. Ask a question about this step.
3. Make a double boiler by bringing some water to boil in a saucepan. Place egg yolks in a small bowl, preferably metal, and place over saucepan. Slowly begin to add the stock mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. You may need to take the bowl on and off the hot water so as not to overcook the eggs. The sabayon will start off frothy and then become thick and creamy. Ask a question about this step.
4. Cook until an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees F.

I wanted to make a whole artichoke heart fried with a dipping sauce. This next recipe was perfect.

Artichoke Hearts of Gold
* 2 globe artichokes, preferable with some stalk
* 1/2 lemon
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 1 egg, beaten
* 1/2 cup Panko and dry bread crumbs, mixed together

1. Prepare the artichokes: Peel all the leaves off the choke. Peel the stalk and with a paring knife neatly trim the bottom where you removed the leaves. Ask a question about this step.
2. Cut the trimmed artichokes in half vertically and with a spoon remove the hairy choke. Be careful when cutting in half to evenly cut the stem, too. Ask a question about this step.
3. Rub immediately with lemon juice so the artichoke doesn't get brown (which happens very quickly!). Steam the hearts until tender. Time will vary depending on the size of the hearts (about 15 minutes). Ask a question about this step.
4. Dip each artichoke half into the egg and then into the bread crumbs. Ask a question about this step.
5. Fry in the olive oil over medium heat until golden.
6. Set on paper towels to absorb the oil. Ask a question about this step.

Creamy Cumin-Lime Dipping Sauce:
* 1/2 cup creme fraiche
* 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
* finely grated zest of a lime
* juice of a lime
* salt

1. Mix all the ingredients together, adding salt to taste. Ask a question about this step.
2. Serve the golden hearts warm with the creamy dipping sauce.

Italian Sweet Easter Pie & Happy Easter to Everyone

There are three pies that Italians make during Holy Week....
PizzaChena, Sweet Rice Pie and Sweet Ricotta Pie.

As with the ingredients, the variations are as many as the cooks who make them and pass down the recipe to their daughters.

Pizza Chen or pizza gaina (as I learned to say it) is a pie that has layers of deli that is baked in a grain crust in a spring form pan, and served room temp all day during the Holy Easter Week. It contains cheeses and salume and hard boiled eggs.

I wanted more of a desert pie and since The Nudge is not a fan of rice pudding, I decided to make the sweet fruit pie which usually has candied citrus peels of some sort. I choose to make mine with pineapple because I am a Pineapple Sundae fanatic and this will like a cheesecake with pineapple but in a pie crust....YUM!.

This recipe makes 3 - 9" basic pies or 2 deep dish 10" pies. I made 2 - 9" pies and the leftover filling will be frozen for when I need a fast dessert later in the month.

It bakes for 15 minutes at 425F, then 35 minutes at 325F which browns the top and crust nicely and slowly cooks the inside low and slow like a regular cheesecake recipe does.

We couldn't resist cutting into our pie when it was still warm. It was like eating a warm souffle. The inside was very light and airy, not heavy at all. I can't wait to see how it sets in the refrigerator.

Nan's Italian Ricotta Pie with Pineapple
adapted from Susan Russo for NPR
Makes two, 9-inch pies

For a 9-inch Double Crust:
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter (chilled)
* 3 large eggs
* 3 to 4 tablespoons ice water, or as much as needed

For the Filling:
* 6 large eggs
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 cups heavy cream
* 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 2 tablespoons cornstarch
* 2 pounds ricotta cheese, drained (minimum of 2 hours or preferably overnight) ***
* 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained (minimum of 2 hours or preferably overnight)
* 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, for dusting top of pies

For the crust, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse about 10 times until the dough becomes pebbly in texture. Add the eggs and pulse repeatedly until the dough begins to stick together. Slowly add the ice water by the tablespoonful, while using a few long pulses. Add more drops of ice water as necessary, until the dough holds together well. Invert the dough onto a floured work surface and divide in half. Form a ball out of each half and flatten into a disc; wrap each disc in plastic wrap and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

If you don't have a processor, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl; add chunks of chilled butter, and using a pastry blender or two forks, chop the butter until it resembles little pebbles. At this point, add the eggs and ice water, and stir with a spoon until the dough begins to form. Using your hands and working the dough as little as possible, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into two equal balls and flatten into discs; wrap each disc in plastic and refrigerate while preparing the filling. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before continuing.)

To make the filling, add the eggs and sugar to a large bowl. Using a hand-mixer, beat until well combined. Add the heavy cream, vanilla extract and cornstarch, and beat on low until well combined. Add the drained ricotta, and beat on low for a few seconds until just combined. Then with a rubber spatula, fold in the drained pineapple. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Coat two 9-inch pie plates with cooking spray. Turn one dough ball onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 10-inch circle. Transfer the dough to the prepared pie plates and gently press into the bottom and sides. Flute the edges as desired. At this point, set the crusts in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to get really chilled, which will make for a flakier crust.

Remove the chilled crusts from the freezer and pour the filling to about 1/4 of an inch below the top of the crust, as it will puff up slightly when baking. Dust the pie tops with the ground cinnamon, gently swirling it with the tip of a teaspoon so the spice doesn't clump.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 degrees and cook for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the filling puffs up, turns golden and is "set," meaning it should be firm, not jiggly when you gently move the pie plate from side to side. Remove from the oven and let cool on a rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Ricotta cheese, an Italian cheese used in both savory and sweet recipes, can be found in most supermarkets. However, I recommend purchasing it from an Italian deli or specialty market if possible. It tends to be more flavorful and less watery than supermarket brands. If you do buy it at a supermarket, then select a full-fat rather than low-fat variety. The low-fat versions are too watery and won't form a thick, dense filling.

April 23, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana Update

I was so tired on Thursday that The Nudge took me out for a salad at our favorite lakeside Italian place. They make a wonderful grilled portabello salad. It was exactly what I wanted and needed. Something light, yet substantial.

I had to stay one more day down south with my dad in the hospital but we got some good news. They will not have to re-cut his chest open. They can fix his leak in his new valve with a teeny tiny clamp and use a catherization procedure to do it.

After shopping in the morning, I actually got to make my eggplant. I just needed good ole comfort food.

I make my eggplant different from most people. If there are hardly any seeds I do not salt the slices. It is the seeds that make it bitter. I also do not peel the eggplant. The skin is edible and after you see how crispy the skin fries and bakes up, you will want to do it this way also. The Nudge looks for those crispy parts around the edges of the pan. I know a lot of people who love the edges of baked dishes.

I also bake mine in a deep pan instead of a lasagna-style pan. I find it has a meatier texture when there are over 5 layers of goodness.

Slice your eggplant no more than 1/4" thick. Not too thin but not too thick. You want to taste the eggplant, crust and cheeses in equal proportions.
When you fry the slices, make sure they are slightly darker then golden brown. I like them as dark as fried chicken.
I use an equal amount of canola and olive oils but if a large tin of pure olive oil is always in your pantry, this is the place to use it. Drain well on paper towels.

There really is no recipe for this dish, it is all in the technique.
See all those wonderful thin layers in my portion? Really good, and even better the next day for lunch or sandwiches or make ahead and serve it for dinner later in the week. It is labor intensive so make a lot all at one time.

I learned to make this from my Mother's best friend who we called "Aunt Mary". I have given this recipe to dozens of people and no one can make it the same as I do, even my sister has never mastered it.

Eggplant Parmigiana
makes enough for 8 servings
* 1 medium eggplant, clean smooth skin, free of blemishes
* 1 large package of mozzarella in the package, not fresh, grated
* 1 full cup packed grated parmigiana cheese (after all, that's what this dish is called)
* 2 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
* 2 eggs or 1/2 cup egg beaters
* 2-3 tablespoons of milk
* salt & pepper
* 2-3 cups dried flavored bread crumbs, not fresh ones

1. Set up 2 dishes for the breading. Beat the eggs and milk with salt & pepper in one dish and place the crumbs in the other.
2. Get a platter to put the breaded slices on. Bread them all at the same time.
3. Place all your slices in the egg mixture and turn them around to start coating them with the egg mix. The salt in the eggs will start the process of removing water from the eggplant but the slices will just absorb that flavor back in again, almost like a natural brine.
4. In about 1 1/2" of oil, fry as many pieces of eggplant as will fit in your stainless steel pan. Do not use non-stick. The temp will be too high for it and you do not need a non-stick, the slices will float.
5. As you watch the slices cook, you will notice that they form an air pocket in the center. When that happens it is time to turn them over the first time.
You will continue to do that until they brown and get crispy, probably a total of 5-6 minutes each. I fry a whole pan full at a time and do not add new slices until I remove all the cooked ones. When you see browned crumbs at the bottom of the pan, remove the oil to a heat-proof Pyrex glass measuring cup and then once the crumbs settle to the bottom, pour back the oil into the pan stopping short of the browned bits and add new oils to maintain the level. I do this usually once during the cooking process.
6. Place cooked sliced on a paper towel lined sheet pan, adding a layer of new towels after the first is full. I got about 3 layers of slices. Now I clean the stove and bowls and get ready to assemble.
7. In this order on your table or counter......sauce, bowl of grated mozzarella, grated parma, baking pan, sheet pan of slices.
8. Spray bakeware with Pam, spread the bottom of baking dish with sauce to cover, and lay pieces of eggplant in a circle ending with one in the middle, about 5-6 slices each layer.
9. Next comes the Parma, be generous with this, at least 2 teaspoons on each slice.
10. A light layer of mozzarella goes on next and then repeat.
Sauce, eggplant, Parma, mozzarella and sauce, slices, etc. until you are done. Top with lots more mozzarella then sauce. I save about 1/4 cup of mozzarella to sprinkle on the top after I remove the finished casserole from the oven. The residual heat will melt it perfectly.

April 20, 2011

Chiles Rellenos and Quinoa

West Indies Wednesday gives us Chiles Rellenos. I have made these before and they are not hard to do. While I had the grill on I roasted the poblanos. They really have so much more flavor when they get that grilled skin. Since quinoa is Mexican, I decided to pair it with the chiles. Very healthy and extremely tasty.

Chiles Rellenos
* 6 poblano chiles
* 8 ounces Oaxcan-style string cheese, mozzarella, or Monterey Jack (or a mixture of 2)
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dredging
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1 teaspoon fine salt, plus more for sprinkling
* 1 (12-ounce) bottle or can lager-style beer
* Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
* Mexican Tomato Sauce, warm, recipe follows
* Equipment: Wooden skewers about 6 inches long

To prepare the chiles:
Position a rack on the upper most shelf of the broiler element and preheat. Put the chiles on a foil-lined broiler pan and broil, turning occasionally with tongs, until the skin is charred, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chiles to a bowl, cover, and cool for 10 minutes.
Carefully rub the charred skin off the chiles. Using a small knife, make a lengthwise slit along the side of each chile to form a pocket. Carefully cut out and discard the seeds.
Cut the cheese into 6 (1/4-inch-thick) slabs, about 3/4 the length of each chile (your chiles probably vary in length, so tailor the cheese to the chiles). Slip the cheese pieces into the pocket of each chile so they're 2/3 full. (If the cheese protrudes from the chiles, just cut a little off.) "Sew" each chile shut with a wooden skewer or long toothpick. (The skewers should be longer than the chiles, so they can be easily pulled out after frying.)

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cumin, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in the beer to a make a smooth batter.
In a large, wide, heavy-bottomed pot, pour in the oil to a depth of about 3 inches. Heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer inserted in the oil registers 365 degrees F.

Put the flour for dredging on a plate. Working in 2 batches, dredge the chiles in the flour (the dampness of the chiles creates a light paste with the flour that seals over any tears), dip in the batter, and carefully add to the oil. Fry, turning the chiles once, until golden brown and crispy, about 4 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer the chiles rellenos to a dry paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle with salt, to taste. Gently pull out and discard the skewers.

Heat the sauce. Spoon some of the sauce on a plate and set 1 chile relleno on top. Repeat with the remaining sauce and chiles. Serve.

Mexican Tomato Sauce:
* 2 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and roughly chopped
* 1/4 medium yellow onion
* 6 cloves garlic
* 5 sprigs fresh coriander (cilantro)
* 1 serrano chile (with seeds)
* 1 tablespoon kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Mexican)

In a blender, combine all the ingredients and puree until smooth.

Transfer the tomato puree to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until slightly thick, about 10 minutes.

Yield: about 3 cups

April 19, 2011

Steak and Hummus Sandwiches

Turkish Tuesday brings us a steak and hummus sandwich. Another very healthy, flavorful and easy recipe. Tabbouleh can make another appearance here also.

Steak and Hummus Sandwiches
makes 4 sandwiches
* 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
* 1/2 cup sliced pickled banana peppers, plus 1/2 cup juice from the jar
* 1/2 cup hummus
* 1 pound grilled flank steak (leftovers from my tangerine beef recipe)
* Sliced tomatoes
* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
* 4 pocketless pitas (preferably whole wheat and homemade)
* 8 romaine lettuce leaves, thinly sliced
* Hot sauce, for topping (optional)

1. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium high. Toss the onion, banana peppers and 1/3 cup of the pickle juice in a bowl. Whisk the hummus with 3 to 4 tablespoons water in another bowl until smooth and pourable.
2. Thinly slice the steak against the grain, then cut crosswise into bite-size pieces. Toss with the remaining 3 tablespoons pickle juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Brush the pitas on one side with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill, oiled-side down, until lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
5. Remove the pitas from the grill and top with the steak. Drain the onion and peppers; divide evenly among the pitas. Top with the lettuce and drizzle with the hummus sauce. Top with hot sauce, if desired.

Per serving: Calories 480; Fat 19 g (Saturated 5 g); Cholesterol 43 mg; Sodium 461 mg; Carbohydrate 46 g; Fiber 7 g; Protein 32 g

April 18, 2011

Baby Lamb Chops with Lemon & a side of Tabbouleh

Today is Mediterranean Monday and I picked Baby Lamb Chops with Lemon.

It's warm enough to grill, so grill I will. A side of tabbouleh and we have a healthy, flavorful and easy meal.

I can eat the tabbouleh all week.

I have to confess the last time I had a tabbouleh salad was 25 years ago. Yes, I eat Bulgar all the time, just not with the Greek ingredients and a lemon & olive oil dressing. I love all the stuff that goes into it just never made them with Bulgar, always with lettuce. This will be The Nudge's first tabbouleh salad.

I spent the better part of the morning driving to South jersey to bring my Dad to Deborah's Heart & Lung Center, then a fast scoot to the dentist to polish up loose ends before my vacation next month.

This was easy, marinate lamb chops, chop vegetables and steam Bulgar. Easy, easy, easy. I couldn't find any fresh mint in the market and I really thought they would be already popping up in my herb garden but all I got was 3 little buds. I will use some fresh basil I bought instead. Hey, Greek's use basil too.

Lamb Chops with Lemon

serves 4
* 6-8 porterhouse lamb chops, 1" thick
* 1/4 cup EVOO
* 3 garlic cloves, smashed
* salt & pepper
* smoked paprika
* 1 stem rosemary, chopped
* 1 tbls fresh mint, chopped
* 12-16 thinly sliced lemon slices (about 2 lemons)
Place all ingredients in a container and marinade at least 1 hour.
Heat a grill or grill pan. Cook chops 4 minutes on each side and the lemon slices until golden brown on the edges.

Serve lamb with lemon.

makes approximately 3 cups
* 1 cup Bulgar wheat
* 1 1/2 cups boiling water
* 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
* 1/4 cup good olive oil
* 3 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
* 1 cup chopped fresh mint leaves (1 bunch)
* 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
* 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
* 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
* 10 Kalamata olives, slices
* 2 slices feta cheese, diced
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place the Bulgar in a large bowl, pour in the boiling water, and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Stir, then allow to stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Add the scallions, mint, parsley, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and feta along with 2 teaspoons salt, and the pepper; mix well. Season, to taste, and serve or cover and refrigerate. The flavor will improve if the tabbouleh sits for a few hours.

I would let the tabbouleh sit outside the fridge for bit, just to get the cold off it.

April 17, 2011

Bobby Flay's April Burger of the Month - Caesar Burger

Every once in a while I look to see what BOM Bobby is showcasing in his Burger Palaces.
This month it is a Caesar Burger so in honor of BBQ Sunday we decided to make it.

Sometimes I get lucky and he posts a recipe on the Food Network site for one of the sauces, the rest you have to guess at.

There was no recipe but this one was easy. I made a homemade Caesar Aioli and used Romaine lettuce with extra Parmesan grated on top.

The Nudge gave it a big thumbs up. I thought the sauce was good and with some doctoring would make a good sauce for a fish po boy.

Caesar Mayonnaise
* 2 cloves garlic
* 1 tsp hot sauce
* 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
* 2 tsp lemon juice
* salt & pepper
* 2 anchovy fillets
* 1 tsp Dijon mustard
* 1 egg yolk
* 1 cup canola oil
* 1/4 cup Parmigiana Reggiano cheese

In bowl of processor, place first 7 ingredients and process until smooth. Add egg yolk and with the machine running drip in the oil. Once half of the oil is in you can pour it in faster.
Remove to a bowl and add grated cheese. Taste for seasoning adjustments.

April 16, 2011

Southern Shrimp & Grits

Saturday is Southern Recipe day. I choose Tyler's Ultimate Shrimp & Grits.
We all know he's from the South and his reviews are off the charts on this recipe.

Since I do not have stone ground grits I will use stone ground white polenta.
One good thing about leftover polenta, spoon it into a small baking dish, let it cool, cut it into squares, wrap each in Saran Wrap. You then can freeze them and grill it off when I need it.
Or I can serve them warm with maple syrup for breakfast or poach and egg on top. After all, it's just grits.

Corn of any kind is good for Diabetics and polenta, bulgur and quinoa are my go to grains when I need a side.

I am not making Tyler's recipe exactly as written, I want to marinade the shrimp in olive oil, lemon juice and garlic before I cook them.

I could not have picked a better day to make this recipe, it is cold and rainy. Hot polenta warms up the belly real well.

If you have never eaten polenta or grits, I suggest you make them SOON.

The Nudge was floored by this recipe and I have made polenta for him many times.

I should have laid down the sauce on top of the grits and then placed the shrimp. You can not see but we each had 5 Jumbo Fresh Shrimp. It was EXCELLENT!!!!

Shrimp and Grits
adapted from Food Network
serves 6-8
* 2 cups chicken stock
* 1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 medium white onion, minced
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 pound spicy sausage, cut in chunks
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 2 cups chicken stock
* 1 bay leaf
* 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 1 green onion, white and green part, chopped

To make the grits, place a 3-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. When the grits begin to bubble, turn the heat down to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Allow to cook for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture is smooth and thick. Remove from heat and stir in the cream and butter, season with salt and pepper.

To make the shrimp, place a deep skillet over medium heat and coat with the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic; saute for 2 minutes to soften. Add the sausage and cook, stirring, until there is a fair amount of fat in the pan and the sausage is brown. Sprinkle in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon to create a roux. Slowly pour in the chicken stock and continue to stir to avoid lumps. Toss in the bay leaf. When the liquid comes to a simmer, add the shrimp. Poach the shrimp in the stock for 2 to 3 minutes, until they are firm and pink and the gravy is smooth and thick. Season with salt and pepper; stir in the parsley and green onion. Spoon the grits into a serving bowl. Add the shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.

April 15, 2011

The HUGE benefits of citrus in your diet.....

I get this Email once a month from The Diabetic News site.

Probably like most of us inundated with Emails, I tend to leave it in my In Box unopened until I have time to go back and read it. I never do, and then I delete.

But every once in a while I do read the teasers and something interesting catches my eye. Most of the time it is advertisements for a Diabetic product of some sort.

Today I caught an article on tangerines and the benefits they provide for Diabetics.

Similar to grapefruits, there is a compound in the tangerine that helps in the prevention of Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.

It was an article worth reading.

I do eat these little cups of grapefruit sections in natural juice every morning. They have expiration dates 1 year away so stock up on them when they are on sale at $1.00 each.
Trust me, I tried buying a bag of ruby red grapefruits, supreming them and portioning them and I saved no money at all and wasted a lot of time.
Just buy them already done.

April 14, 2011

Edible Containers - Daring Cooks Challenge April 2011

Renata of Testado, Provado & Aprovado! was our Daring Cooks’ April 2011 hostess. Renata challenged us to think “outside the plate” and create our own edible containers! Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 17th to May 16th at The Daring Kitchen!

I spent the whole night thinking about this challenge. Not just because of the prizes, but the exposure would be phenomenal.

There were many ways to go, things I have done in the past or seen on a show, but that wasn't quite creative enough for me. Even though no one else might have seen those, I wanted something no one would think of.

We can submit more than one recipe and we have to write paragraph explaining the concept behind the dish and how we came to create it.

This was simple...I was sitting in the Diner with The Nudge a couple of Saturdays ago and, just like the 3 seconds he came up with the name of my business (which, by the way, I spent the better part of a whole day thinking of different names), he did the same thing again.

I really hate when he does that, but he had such a good idea, I had no choice but to agree with him on this one.

A Meatloaf Bowl to serve Creamy Mashed Roasted Cauliflower Puree covered with a mushroom gravy.

GENIUS.....simply genius.

The problem was how to bake the shape with drainage for fat drip-off. Meatloaf will ooze no matter how lean your meat is. I thought about using ground turkey but The Nudge was adamant about it.......NO, NO, NO.

I finally decided on using my 6" springform pan. I put my meatloaf into the pan, and just like a graham cracker crust, I worked the meat mixture up the sides of the pan, making sure the bottom had enough width to support the sides.

I baked it for 20 minutes at 375F, toweled up the fat that was collecting in the center, put it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.
Once that baked I removed the springform sides and let it sit to room temp.
Then I slide it off the bottom, on to a foiled lined sheet pan and baked it free form for another 20 minutes. 1 hour total.
While that cooled, I steamed the potatoes.
(I changed the interior from pureed cauliflower, which we normally would eat, to potatoes for a more traditional side to meatloaf).

I added 2 tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup heavy cream to a bowl, added the steamed potatoes and with a fork, mashed everything together. I put that mixture into a Ziploc bag, cut the tip off and piped the potatoes into the center of the meatloaf bowl.

I steamed the peas in the same steamer as the potatoes were in (I hate using extra pots). Once they were done I spooned them along the edge of the bowl.
Isn't this the cutest thing you ever saw?

I removed about 2 tablespoons of potatoes from the top and made a well for the gravy.

I gave The Nudge the honor of pouring in the gravy, after all it was his idea. I used exactly 1/2 cup of gravy.

The finished dish. Now to cut it and take a pic of the slice and interior. I hope it stays intact after all this work.

It was a great success as you can see.
I was so afraid the interior would flop and cave in after cutting it. I think the key here was letting it cool completely after baking it.
I nuked the final project for 5 minutes and served. I thought I might have needed an egg in the potatoes for stability but it worked out well.

I am very proud of myself for this challenge.

I always had a good meatloaf recipe but this would make it an "Over the Top" meatloaf to serve a family because the cuteness would appeal to kids and they just might love meatloaf.

Who could resist a piece of this "MeatBowl for a ChowHound"???